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Entries in Costume Design (113)

Monday
Jan272014

Interview: Joanna Scanlan on 'The Invisible Woman' and Working with Icons

Photo via Beige PlusThere's a wonderful little moment in Notes on a Scandal (2006) in which a well meaning but unwelcome teacher by the name of Sue Hodge advises her fellow schoolteachers (played by Dami Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett), who are struggling with their students to "concern yourself with the gems". I'm shamelessly borrowing that line right now to talk about the British actress who utters it, because she is one.

Joanna Scanlan co-wrote and starred in the BBC series Getting On (now enjoying an American remake) and has played witches, nurses, schoolteachers, and more yet she's largely unknown to American audiences. She's got her best cinematic showcase yet in The Invisible Woman as Catherine Dickens, the neglected depressed wife of the famous writer Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes). Her husband may neglect her and the Oscar conversation did, too (despite its ostensible purpose being to, well, concern itself with the gems) so we're picking up their slack.

She's remarkable in the movie and though the title does not literally refer to her character, we like to think it has a double meaning. The movie business is not a meritocracy but it there's any justice Joanna Scanlan won't be an 'invisible woman' much longer but will be popping up in more roles worthy of her. I eagerly telephoned her to discuss her role in this Oscar nominated picture (Best Costume Design) and her nifty habit of acting opposite true icons like Dench, Fiennes, Pfeiffer, and Blanchett. 

Our conversation is after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan082014

A Year with Kate: Christopher Strong (1933)

ICYMI - New Series! - Episode 2 of 52

In which Katharine Hepburn plays another British lady, and her acting gets better even if her accent doesn’t.

If Katharine Hepburn has one problem in her early career (besides her infamous intractability) it is her inability to be anything other than herself. That odd quality that made her a star in A Bill of Divorcement also plagued her through her career. She’s too stubborn to be an ingénue, too young to be a dame, too androgynous to be a femme fatale and too fascinating to be a character actor. What then to do with her? Once she hits MGM she definitely hits her stride, but sadly that is seven years, twelve movies (and for us, twelve very long weeks) away.  First we have to get through the trial and error period of Kate’s career, where she tried on many hats.

The next hat is this:

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan082014

Costume Designers Guild Hustling for 'Gatsby', '12 Years a Slave', 'Her'

Glenn here to share the Costume Designers Guild nominations that were just announced this morning (what? you think they pay attention to whether other award organisations are announcing the same day?) I think it's safe to say that the costume category is The Film Experience collective's favourite category outside of the actressing ones, and this year's category looks like it will be a fight to the death between the spectacle of The Great Gatsby, the refined flare of American Hustle, and the authenticity of 12 Years a Slave. All three showed up in today's guild nomination - the first "below the line" guild citations of the season - alongside titles like Blue Jasmine, Her and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Excellence in Period Film

  • 12 Years a Slave, Patricia Norris
  • American Hustle, Michael Wilkinson
  • Dallas Buyers Club, Kurt & Bart
  • The Great Gatsby, Catherine Martin
  • Saving Mr. Banks, Daniel Orlandi

The aforementioned three plus Saving Mr. Banks were obvious selections (and Nathaniel was already predicting them for Oscar), but the low-key '80s Texas ranch duds and Rayon's striking color-blocked ensembles of Dallas Buyers Club feel like a surprise. Or, they would if Jean-Marc Vallee's film hadn't been charging through the precursors already, I guess. Sad to see the fleetingly eclectic and generation-spanning work of Ruth E. Carter in Lee Daniels' The Butler miss out. Whither Oprah's crocheted disco suit. Likewise the sumptuous work of William Chang on The Grandmaster, the divinely textured albeit little seen fashions of Ralph Fiennes' The Invisible Woman, and (despite my loathing of the film) Julian Day's less-jokey '70s Rush attire including Chris Hemsworth's procession of fabulous, retro tees that I wish I owned and open-necked button-ups I wish I had the body to pull off.

Contemporary, fantasy, TV and Sandy Powell after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jan052014

Monday
Dec302013

Stop Trying To Make Link Happen

Clothes on Film gets writers to name their favorite costumes of the year from Stoker through The Grandmaster and on to Spring Breakers
IndieWire thinks Oscar's Cinematography category should be split into two now (computer environments/traditional) as it once was (black and white / color). Co-sign. But then you knew that since I wrote about the problem with this category earlier this year in preparation for Gravity's Oscar win, which will be the 4th heavily computerized film in 5 years to win both vfx and cinematography statues
Buzzfeed Mean Girls and 34 other movies that are turning 10 in 2014. Yes, The Film Experience will be revisiting some of these. Any preferences?

Vulture homage vs theft as it relates to American Hustle from Scorsese... and, well, Scorsese from Scorsese. I think comparisons between Russell and Scorsese's movies are largely missing the point -- an accident of release date and sudden divisive critical fervor -- but this is a good read
IndieWire gets really effusive about Inside Llewyn Davis' Oscar Isaac calling him the next Paul Newman 
Pajiba the 10 best performances from inanimate objects in 2013 from Christian Bale's hairpiece in American Hustle through Man of Steel's tragic victims
Deadline on the use of silence in Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and All is Lost. Brad from Rope of Silicon and I got into this argument with the Hitfix boys yesterday about Gravity. 'What silence? That score is terrified of letting you deal with silence!'

Today's Wolf of Wall Street arguments
Another 24 hours, another cycle of aggressive shaming of those who don't love it.
In Contention interviews The Wolf of Wall Street's Leonardo DiCaprio who does my least favorite thing that actors can do: diss critics who don't like their movie for not getting it. Usually it's better for filmmakers to shut up when they're unhappy with critics. Remember how embarrassing it was when James Cameron got all touchy about negative Titanic reviews?  Joe Reid at The Wire responds with a terrific piece about the disingenuous posturing going on from critics who like to have their cake and eat it, too. 

I haven't been online much today but I'm assuming the response to Leo's statement is drawing big cheers from critics in the Wolf of Wall Street camp.  Careful, people. Just remember how much fun you made of Armie Hammer when he blamed you for The Lone Ranger's failure. 

 

Finally...
Some of you may have seen this a couple of weeks ago but Michael Cusumano, who writes here on occasion, knew he would have to see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug with family over the holidays so he caved on his decision not to watch the new Middle Earth trilogy. He liveblogged The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) to catch up (part one and part two) and it is awesome. I made the same initial vow and I've stuck to it but I did happen to recently very casually nibble on parts of last year's 3 hour fantasy slop on HBO the other night so that made this timeline even funnier... I agreed with every word regarding the scenes I tasted (but did not swallow).

Wednesday
Dec112013

Team FYC: "Blue Jasmine" for Costume Design

In the FYC series, we're spotlighting our favorite fringe contenders. Here's abstew on Blue Jasmine's threads.

When it comes to the Oscar for Best Costume Design, the Academy's aesthetic seems rather limited. They go one of two ways: Period Piece or Fantasy. Having a tendency to confuse 'Best' with 'Most' the eventual winner is often whichever is that year's most elaborate or over-the-top design (Alice in Wonderland, really?!). Contemporary set films with well-thought-out clothes that define the character tend to get overlooked in the Season End Gold Rush. Breakfast at Tiffany'sPretty Woman, and Clueless are all victims of this crime against fashion. So, hopefully when the nominations are announced on January 16th, Cate Blanchett's inevitable Best Actress nomination for Blue Jasmine will be joined by a nomination for Suzy Benzinger's meticulously designed costumes for the Woody Allen film.

As a Park Avenue socialite, Jasmine French's life is defined by labels. Not just the one's society has placed on her - wife, mother, sister - but, more importantly, the one's that matter most to her, Designer labels - Chanel, Fendi, Louis Vuitton (Blanchett's pronunciation of the French fashion house is perfect in its pretension). In the first shot we see of her, sitting in First Class in her Chanel jacket, crisp white shirt, and strands of pearls, we immediately know who this woman is before she's even said a word. The Upper East side theater I saw the film in (next to Bloomingdale's, of course) was populated with woman all wearing a variation of the uniform. So, it makes sense that when Jasmine's world unravels after the downfall of her corrupt husband, the labels are all she has to cling to. Upon meeting her sister Ginger's boyfriend Chili and his friend, she clutches that highest of all status symbols, the Hermès Birkin bag, as if her life depends on it. Without it she'd be just as low-class as they are.

And yet, as the film progresses, you begin to see something a woman in her position would never be caught doing in public - repeating outfits. There's that Chanel jacket again paired with a different shirt.  Jasmine's fall from grace has forced her to be thrifty, mixing and matching clothes like a regular person. And she's soon confronted with something she thought she'd never have to wear in her life: hospital scrubs at a dentist office. (Her sister Ginger's job as a grocery store checkout girl, requires her to wear a similarly hideous smock.) The juxtaposition of how different the two are is clearly illustrated by the women's clothes. Ginger, all short denim skirts and platform espadrilles, is everything Jasmine has spent her whole life avoiding. Benzinger expresses so much about these character's through what they're wearing. The costumes are more than just clothes, but an essential element of the storytelling.

some previous FYCs... Mud | Stories We Tell | In a World... | Short Term 12 | The Great Gatsby |  Nebraska | Lawrence Anyways | World War Z | The World's End | The Conjuring | Aint Them Bodies Saints 

 

Thursday
Nov282013

Team FYC: 'Laurence Anyways' for Best Costume Design

[Editor's Note: The FYC series brings together all Film Experience contributors to highlight our favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Glenn Dunks on Xavier Dolan's latest]

Anybody who knows me knows I have been trumpeting Xavier Dolan’s trans epic Laurence Anyways since I saw it back in January. I experienced a lot of emotions during this gloriously decadent and painfully intimate affair on the big screen (as one should expect from a three-hour movie). Yet what caught me most off guard was the romanticism with which it painted images through costume. Oh sure, Dolan’s previous films had a way with the fashions – the suburban chic duds of I Killed My Mother and the hipster vintage of Heartbeats - but never had their colours felt so radical, their intent so cutting, their stories so vivid.

So many of my lasting memories of Laurence Anyways rotate around the clothes. In fact, the first thing we see of our lead character are the clothes. There’s the symbolic baby blue business attire with hot pink accentuated shoulders in the opening scene. There’s the billowing aubergine purple coat that threatens to consume the entire screen. There’s the paperclips as fingernails. And then, of course, there’s the film’s centrepiece sequence as the divine Suzanne Clément struts into a new wave ball to the throbbing beat of “Fade to Grey” by Visage. As her black and white spider-cape is removed to reveal a body-hugging metallic dress she joins revellers outfitted in the finest 1980s designer wear. It’s a room full of gigantic pink bows, lemon yellow princess dresses, puffy crimson floor-length gowns and stylish tuxedos with visor accessories. That scene deserves a nomination alone.

Credited to both François Barbeau and Dolan himself (ever the multi-hyphenate), the two won a Canadian Genie for their work (alongside the equally dazzling make-up). I’m not sure if the Academy are entirely up to handing out nominations to minimally-released 3-hour foreign-language films about the journey of one person from man to woman, but if ever a branch was to go out on a limb it’d be the costumers. The work of Barbeau and Dolan is inspiring and inspired in equal measure. The costumes are lux and quirky, singular and sprawling. Much like the entire film, really. Laurence Anyways just isn’t Laurence Anyways without them and when a film feels so defined by its costume work, the Academy should pay attention.

previous FYCs
Cameron Diaz in The Counsellor | Spectacular Now for Best PictureMakeUp for Warm Bodies | Sound Mixing in World War Z 

 

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